There is a good reason both the European Union and the NATO decided to base their headquarters in Belgium: its cuisine and its beer! All that diplomacy, after all, is hungry and thirsty work.
The Belgians are veritable gourmands, and love their food. Whether we are talking about a quick snack, like fries (smothered in sauce), a savoury dish like mussels, or a sweet desert in the form of one of their world famous waffles, it is invariably good. And you can wash it all down with one of the hundreds, if not thousand, varieties of beers that this nation hosts. Walking down a random street in Brussels will clog your arteries, but you will promptly forget that when you buy yet another box of Belgium chocolates from one of the many chocolatiers.
All in all it’s best to keep active in Belgium if you don’t want to add any weight while you are there. Luckily there is plenty to see and do, both for the sporty or the cultural. Visit medieval Ghent or Bruges, hike the Ardennes, try your hand with the Saxophone in Dinant, learn about European Union and mingle with the diplomats in Brussels, contemplate the horrors of war in Ypres and its poppy fields, and cycle from one brewery to the next to keep those calories burning!
Belgium is Europe, don’t miss it!
Highlights from Belgium
- Medieval Bruges (aka Brugge) is hard to beat in terms of beauty, stroll its cobbled stoned streets and watch the reflections of its ancient houses in its canals
- Ghent (aka Gent) is a less touristy version of Bruges, which is reason enough not to skip
- Peruse the diamond district in Antwerp (aka Antwerpen) in search for a ring for your fiancée, or just enjoy some Flemish fries (yes, the Belgium’s invented fries, not the French!) and a bustling nightlife
- Stop by Ypres and listen to the Last Post, played precisely at 8 o’clock every evening, beneath the Menin Memorial Gate in respect of the soldiers who gave their life in World War One at Ypres
- Understand what the European Union is about in Brussels (aka Brussel, aka Bruxelles), and end the day with some fine food and (perhaps) a pub crawl to taste one of the many beers on offer on the Grand Place
- Hike away all that food in the Ardennes, and stop in Spa for hot-springs and good mineral water and a look at the Formula 1 racing track nearby
- Stroll around stately Namur in Wallonia, or discover everything you wanted to know about the saxophone in Dinant the birthplace of Adolphe Sax
- Go to Liège (aka Luik), a historical city on the River Meuse and birthplace of Emperor Charlemagne
- Visit one of the six Trappist breweries in Belgium, like Rochefort, Chimay, Westmalle or d’Orval and learn about beer brewing from the monks
- Take a dip in the cold North Sea waters or visit old Zeebrugge with its fish market
Hints and Tips for Belgium
- The north of Belgium speaks Dutch, the south French, and Brussels is officially bilingual. English, however, is widely spoken, especially so in international Brussels.
- Don’t talk about French Fries in Belgium, they were never French, that honour should go to Belgium.
- Even if it might seem tempting, don’t drink the water in the little rivers and creeks in the Ardennes!
- The north of Belgium is rather flat, perfect for cycling, an economical and healthy way of getting about.
- Dine and wine! It is what Belgium is about.